Lack of awareness is handicap, too

15 Oct 2014 by Larry Johnson

By Larry Johnson

Several years back, I went with a group of colleagues from work to a restaurant. Everyone jumped out of his or her car and headed off toward the entrance to the restaurant, leaving me standing in the parking lot.

I called after them. They turned laughing and said: “Oh sorry, we forgot you were blind.” This was supposed to have been funny and a compliment. But it was neither. It was a lapse in their awareness.

I don’t want people to forget that I can’t see.

In an awkward way, my colleagues were trying to tell me that they accepted me as “one of them.” And certainly that is important to me. However, if they should happen to rearrange their living-room furniture and not tell me on my next visit to their home, I might wind up sitting on the coffee table instead of the couch.

If a waiter at a restaurant places a glass of water in front of me and doesn’t tell me, I might accidentally knock it over.

If you need to leave me alone for a moment, I will appreciate your letting me know, so I don’t start talking to an empty chair.

And I will not be at all offended if you offer for me to take your arm to walk into an unfamiliar building or meeting room.

Being blind, I know I have limitations, and I don’t mind that you know it as well, and that you are willing to offer me help when I need it.

We all have limitations, differences or preferences, and it’s important to recognize, respect and accept the differences, limitations and preferences of each other.

If I invite you over to my house for dinner and you are a vegetarian, I’m not going to serve you barbecued chicken.

If you are diabetic, I’m not going to offer you a second slice of key lime pie.

If you are unusually short, as my wife was, and we were shopping together at the supermarket, I will be happy to offer to reach up to the top shelf to bring down for you a box of your favorite cookies.

It’s showing an awareness of and consideration toward the other person’s needs, limitations or preferences.

My inability to see, like my tallness and my extreme dislike of liver, are certain aspects of who I am. They do not make up the whole of me, but they are definitely important, and I want you to remember them.

Don’t invite me over to dinner and serve me liver and onions. Don’t forget to warn me about that low hanging chandelier in the middle of your dining-room. And don’t try talking to me from the other room with the stereo cranked up full blast, ’cause my hearing isn’t what it was 20 years ago.

It would be very boring indeed if we were all exactly alike — the same size, same color hair, same talents, skills and abilities.

Thankfully we’re not. It is, in fact, our uniqueness as individuals that makes it so interesting for us to know each other.

And that’s how I see it.

Contact Larry Johnson via email at or visit his website at

Larry Johnson is a San Antonio based Journalist who regularly contributes to the Jason’s Connection Magazine. This article first appeared in the San Antonio Express-News on September 27, 2014 and has been republished with permission from the author.